March 2, 2011
It’s a drug fueling crime and killing kids, the addiction so powerful people will do anything to feed their habit.
“It’s a long, dark, dark road.”
At only 17 years old Amy is a recovering Heroin addict.
She says, “Eventually I was just like the gross junkies that I thought I would never be.”
At 13-years-old the drinking and drugs started. The first time she did Oxycontin was at 16 on a school lunch break.
That led to heroin, a path an increasing number of Madison area teens are taking.
Amy says, “Just about anybody that I know from my old high school that is smoking weed and drinking, if you go up to them and ask if they have a connection to opiates they’d say yes and make a phone call.”
One of the most dangerous opiates, heroin, has become a big problem for police.
MPD PIO Joel DeSpain says, “I’m reading reports on a daily basis of people overdosing on heroin.”
Madison Police say the drug also fuels other crimes, endangering everyone.
DeSpain says, “We’re seeing a lot of our thefts, our burglaries our robberies, they can be connected to other criminal elements but certainly some of those who are committing these crimes are heroin users who are desperate to get their next fix.”
One of the most notorious cases is the parka bandit.
In 2009 20-year-old Justin Simpson was charged with seven felony counts of armed robbery after police say he confessed to several stick ups in order to fuel a 100-dollar a day heroin addiction.
Amy says, “I had friends that robbed gas stations and went to jail for it.”
That kind of do anything attitude is one she knows well.
She says, “I sold all my clothes, like sold pretty much everything I had.”
Chase Newman says, “You’ll go by any means to get it.”
Like Amy, Newman fell victim to Heroin’s power.
He says, “There is no shock that the crime goes up. It just feels like it’s just necessary to get the drug. I mean it’s the only way you know how to live.”
Newman is also a recovering addict, one who’s lucky to be alive.
After already overdosing on Heroin twice in a year he did it a third time.
He says, “I think that was the one where I was closest to dying, just completely stopped breathing and stuff.”
The narcotics and gang task force say last year was a record-setting year for Heroin-related overdoses and deaths countywide.
Newman says, “I within the last year had two good friends who overdosed and died. One of them was vice president of our class in high school, sports star.”
In 2006, Madison Fire reported giving Narcan, a drug that can bring people back from an overdose, to 18 patients who were in theirs 20s.
By 2010, the figure jumped to almost 80 people.
Skye Tikkanen with Connections Counseling says, “We’ve seen kids be more and more susceptible to getting addicted to prescription drugs, prescription painkillers. From there the prescription pain killers get too expensive and they move to heroin.”
Tikkanen, a counselor and recovering heroin addict herself, is working with Wisconsin Lawmakers to put a Good Samaritan Law in place, providing limited immunity for drug possession charges to those who call 911 when another is overdosing.
She says two states who’ve enacted the law have seen a decline in overdose deaths.
She says, “Their 911 responders are saying its making a huge difference. It’s a common sense piece of legislation.”
An increase in crime, dying kids and those experiencing close calls, all of it attributed to a drug now taking over more lives than most realize.
Both Chase and Amy say they’ve been working on sobriety for about a year and say they agreed to share their stories to prevent others from being sucked into a heroin addiction.
Reporter: Chris Woodard
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org